“CLEAN” COAL IN WYOMING
No shrinking violet, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal. He is trying to be a responsible environmentalist and a Wyoming coal industry advocate by leading the way on “clean” coal.
The Governor recently called for safety regulations and property rights laws governing the sequestration of greenhouse gases to be captured by coal-fired power plants burning his state’s rich resource. (Wyoming is the top U.S. coal producer.) Freudenthal also condemned the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for pulling its backing for FutureGen, previously considered the U.S. premier pilot carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) project.
Freudenthal pointed out that the President had called for the development of “clean” coal technology in the State of the Union address even as DOE was folding on FutureGen: "…the project that has been talked about as kind of the flagship technology for many years, had lots of states put in effort to apply for it, it finally gets down to the point where people are serious about it, and all of a sudden, the administration does a complete about-face…To me, it's not only astonishing, it's disingenuous. It's kind of like they invited all of us to go to the prom, picked their date, and then canceled the dance…It seems to me - the absurdity of it - it could only be the federal government that would do this…"
Schematic of carbon-capture-and-sequestration concepts. (click to enlarge)
Freudenthal wants Wyoming to use federal abandoned mine clean-up funds to develop its own CCS projects: "The fundamental fact remains that over the next decade, you can't shift from an economy in the United States where whatever it is, half the electricity consumed in this country comes from coal…I think that it is an unfortunate development. But 20 years from now it's going to have to be in place. The question is, how many fits and starts we're going to have to go through getting there."
The question is, Governor, how much of increasingly dwindling public funds should the U.S. use on a technology that is 20 years off and can never really be clean (because coal mining is an abomination to the landscape and coal transport is energy intensive) when those funds could go to build wind and solar power plants that are available now, truly clean and unlimited in supply?
Unfortunately, Governor Freudenthal's attempt to straddle the divide between the coal industry and the environment by using the oxymoronic epithet "clean coal may leave him in an oxymoronic political position.
Panel backs carbon storage regulation
Bob Moen, January 24, 2008 (Casper Star-Tribune)
Wyo. Governor Blasts Gov’t on FutureGen
Ben Neary, January 31, 2008 (AP via Forbes)
Joint Judiciary Interim Committee of the Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), FutureGen, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Freudenthal urged the Wyoming legislative committee to give regulatory oversight on “clean” coal to the state’s DEQ and recognize surface landowners’ rights to the emissions storage voids. He condemned DOE’s backing out of FutureGen and reaffirmed his state’s commitment to carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) pilot projects.
Wyoming sits on one the U.S.' richest coal beds. It also has geologic structures suited to sequestration - theoretically. (click to enlarge)
The regulatory measures will be taken up by the full Wyoming Legislature in February.
The attraction of CCS in Wyoming is that the state has abundant coal resources as well as vast deep geologic structures for sequestration.
- Freudenthal is positioning his state to have a significant voice in CCS development.
- Freudenthal is confident DEQ can effectively regulate the CCS process.
- Freduenthal wants surface landowners with deep geologic formations to profit from emissions storage and he wants to protect them from unnecessary liabilities.
- The cancellation of FutureGen follows extensive political angling that pushed Wyoming out of the plan.
- The Governor wants Wyoming to spend its federal abandoned mine clean-up funds ($82.7 million this year, $580 million over the next 7 years) on smaller CCS pilot projects.
Some of Wyoming's neighbors in Montana are not as enthusiastic about coal. (click to enlarge)
- Freudenthal, on developing Wyoming CCS regulations: "The best way to [secure a Wyoming voice in federal regulations] is to have something in place first, instead of having the federal government come and say, 'Well, you're not doing anything now, do exactly what we tell you'…I think we have a better chance of defining how this issue is treated in a way that makes sense for Wyoming if we act now…I think this nation's going to be at this issue for a long time. Start with some small steps and then you move forward."
- Freudenthal, on the wealth that will go to landowners with deep geologic emissions storage formations: "I would rather that wealth go to our citizens than to the federal government…"
- Senator Enzi: "Several projects have been proposed in Wyoming and are struggling with funding…If funding isn't going to one big project outside of Wyoming, there are many options in our state that can be in the forefront of revolutionary new wave technologies designed to meet environmental challenges."